Sunday, 31 July 2011

Thing 7: face-to-face networks and professional organisations

The only professional organisation of which I am a member is CILIP. I joined when I was doing my MA, mainly because I wanted to be a New Professionals Support Officer (NPSO) on my local CILIP Career Development Group (CDG) committee, for which I needed to be a member of CILIP and, within that, CDG. I also thought I should see what CILIP had to offer, whilst I could join on a much cheaper student membership fee. Finally, I thought that it would look good on job applications, demonstrating a commitment to the profession. I remain a member now for two reasons: 1) so that I can continue to serve on my local CDG committee and 2) so that I can Charter.  I’m not sure whether I would be a member otherwise. I feel that being a member of CILIP has offered me some opportunities which I wouldn’t otherwise have had, but I have quite a few gripes with CILIP and feel that they could do a lot better.

Benefits of CILIP membership
  • The opportunity to serve on a committee. I really enjoy being involved in CDG and meeting and working with people whom I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. I haven’t done that much yet as an NPSO, for various reasons, but over the coming year I have some plans for how I would like to engage with local new professionals on behalf of CDG, particularly the MSc students at UWE, and am really looking forward to hopefully putting some of them into action soon.
  • Bursaries and sponsored places at events. I was able to attend this year’s Umbrella conference because I got a full sponsored place from my local CILIP branch, for which I wouldn’t have been eligible were I not a CILIP member. All of the other sponsored places to Umbrella, and, earlier, to the New Professionals Conference, that I saw advertised, similarly required applicants to be members of a CILIP branch or special interest group. This is a really valuable aspect of CILIP membership for me, as I gained a lot from Umbrella and I wouldn’t have been able to go without a sponsored place.
Where CILIP lets me down
  • Membership fee categories. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; they’re just plain daft! The top membership fee band is for those earning £17k or more; so senior library assistants are paying the same membership fee as library directors. Not fair, and at such a large fee I expect more from CILIP than what I currently get. On a similar note, I am not impressed at having to pay £50 to register for Chartership and then £50 to submit my portfolio (that’s every time you submit; so if you fail it’s going to cost you another £50 to submit again). I haven’t compared this with the fees charged by chartering bodies in other professions, but it does feel extortionate. CILIP cannot, I feel, be an inclusive organisation when it charges fees like that, with little help for those who will struggle to pay.
  • The lack of online facilities. CILIP, why do I have to post you a paper renewal form and a cheque to renew my membership?! Why isn’t there a quick and easy way to do it online (without setting up a direct debit)? And while we’re on this topic, is it really necessary for me to submit three bound copies of my Chartership portfolio? I understand that they are hoping to accept one electronic copy with two bound copies from next year, but still, this is long overdue, I feel. For a profession that is supposed to be IT literate, CILIP falls behind.
I have some other criticisms of CILIP – lack of affordable training and lack of advocacy, for example – but I believe that these are things which are being addressed in the current and forthcoming plans for CILIP which have come out of the results of the survey put out to members last year. I look forward to seeing what is going to happen with CILIP; I hope that they really will genuinely address some of the issues that I and others have raised.

The face-to-face LISNPN meet-ups that take place around the country were mentioned in the instructions for Thing 7 as a face-to-face addition to an online network, and this is something that I find really valuable. It’s great to talk to people online, but I enjoy getting to know people in “real-life”, and consolidating contacts and maybe even friendships. There is another Bristol LISNPN meet-up coming up, being organised by World’s Deadliest Librarian, if anyone in the area wants to join in. And if you’re thinking of organising one in your area, it’s really easy; I’ve written some advice based on my experience of organising the first Bristol one.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Thing 6: online networks

I am a big fan of using online networks to make contacts in the LIS world. I’ve been doing it in some form or another since I started my MA, and I honestly believe that it has been beneficial in helping me through my MA, getting my job, and getting other opportunities. I’ve already blogged in Thing 4 about how much I value Twitter, and that is probably the network that I find most useful, but I do use others too. When I spoke at the New Professionals Conference about the importance of establishing dialogues between new and experienced LIS professionals, I proposed online networks as being one of the most, if not the most, ideal spaces in which this can happen. CPD23 sets out a number of online networks for us to consider for Thing 6, and I have varying experience of all of them.

I am fairly new to LinkedIn. It felt like something that I really should be signed up to, and, when I was unemployed after my MA and worrying about getting a job, I signed up and created a profile, which I promptly neglected when I did get a job. Recently I decided to have another look at it, mainly because I had seen people tweeting about the discussions which take place on the LinkedIn groups; they seemed interesting, and, again, an ideal space in which to start conversations between new and experienced professionals. I am still not doing much with it though. I added a few people who I know as contacts, and have received a few requests myself. I can see its potential; as Helen Murphy explains in the CPD23 blog post on Thing 6, LinkedIn profiles are usually found quite high-up in Google searches, and, with the opportunity to add experience, interests, publications etc. to your profile, this can mean that someone can get a good idea about the professional you when they Google you. This is particularly useful, I think, when you’ve met someone at an event or a conference; people don’t always have their full names on Twitter accounts or blogs, so LinkedIn in a good place to find them (and also to check that you’ve got the right person!). I also think that the groups are a good place to get involved in discussions, but I must confess I haven’t done so myself yet. 

I am still a bit unsure about the etiquette of LinkedIn though. Do you add/accept requests from people who you don’t know or haven’t met in “real life”? And what should you say, if anything, in your request to connect? During a workshop at the New Professionals Conference, Suzanne Wheatley said that you should never just use the standard text that LinkedIn provides, but should write a personalised message. I’ve been doing that when I’ve been asking people to connect with me, but I’ve received several requests which just use the standard text. It all still feels very new to me!

I’ve been using Facebook since the second term of my first year at university, when it became available to the University of York (this was in the days when Facebook was open only to university students, and you couldn’t join until your university had been added to the list of accepted institutions by the people running Facebook!). I have always used it to stay connected with old friends and to add photographs (tagging people in them too, obviously). I don’t use it so actively these days, but I do appreciate being able to keep track of old friends; people change numbers, email addresses etc., but Facebook keeps them there for you (provided they don’t get fed up of Facebook and delete their accounts!). It’s also very helpful for remembering friends’ birthdays!

I set up a Facebook group for LISNPN, which I would like to overhaul at some point soon, but, other than that, I don’t use Facebook for professional purposes (except maybe posting links to my blog, for librarian friends who aren’t on Twitter, or for anyone else who might be interested!). I am not convinced of its value for such purposes; Facebook keeps changing its group pages and I don’t think Facebook groups are so popular or easy to use any more. I think Twitter and other online networks are better for the purposes that Facebook groups serve. That said, I do think that Facebook is much more accessible than Twitter and other online spaces; it’s widely used and is simpler. For this reason, I think it can be used to attract people who are nervous or unsure about using Twitter, which is why I want to maintain the LISNPN Facebook group; Facebook is in many ways the friendly, approachable face of social media, and I think it can be useful in introducing people to the idea of online networking.

I don’t have any work colleagues, and only have very few people who I know through my professional activity, as Facebook friends, and probably wouldn’t accept friend requests from current colleagues; my online presence is generally so open that I do value having that space where I can share things with friends without the world seeing. I use a fake forename on Facebook, partly so that I am not so easily discoverable on there, and so that my Facebook profile doesn’t appear in Google searches.

I am a bit biased when it comes to LISNPN, being a member of the team who runs it (and a newly promoted Super-Admin – thanks Ned!). However, I do think it is an incredibly useful site. Some people are not so keen on using a “Web 1.0” concept like a forum as an online network, but I think that it has value; Twitter moves so fast that you can often miss things, whereas LISNPN keeps things there for you until you have time to get to them. LISNPN also has a Resources section, and Events page, on which anyone can set up an event, which is an added extra which a forum can offer. When I started my graduate traineeship three years ago, I searched for online forums for newly-qualified librarians, and then for any kind of librarians, and found nothing, so, when I was invited to help with LISNPN last year, I jumped at the chance.

We also have a Facebook group and a Twitter account, which allows us to engage with users further, and I think that this is really effective; the Twitter profile in particular. As I’ve said, I’d like to see what more we can do with the Facebook group, and we have a few plans for developing our use of Twitter. While I believe that LISNPN is a useful site, I think it’s important to develop a presence on other online networks too, to promote the site and to make it as accessible as possible.

I’ve been reading about what people think of LISNPN in their Thing 6 blog posts, but if anyone has any thoughts to share on their use of LISNPN and/or how it could be more useful, I’d love to hear them.

Librarians as Teachers network
I signed up to the LAT network last year, as teaching is one of the aspects of librarianship that has most interested me, since my undergraduate days when I started wondering whether I might want to be an academic librarian. However, I haven’t been back on it much since then. This is not because I don’t think it would be useful, but because I have just been so busy over the past year that it’s something that has slipped down my list. As I started my job in November, I missed the start of the academic year so haven’t had much chance to do teaching yet, so I think that it just hasn’t been on my mind. I’m starting to think about September now, though, so I think I’ll have another look at the LAT network, and perhaps start or get involved in some discussions. Teaching can be one of the most challenging aspects of our roles, I think, so it’s good that there is a support network in place for it!

CILIP communities
I don’t use CILIP communities. I have tried to in the past, but found it slow and a bit frustrating, and then decided I could probably find whatever I was looking for on Twitter or LISNPN. Reading other Thing 6 blog posts, it sounds like I’m not alone in this! I do, however, like the CILIP members blog landscape; it brings together blog posts from a diverse collection of interesting LIS people, and is easy to scan through. I often have a look to see what people are blogging about.

I have started using Google+, but not very heavily. I’m not sure about the usefulness of my personal “stream” – it’s nothing that I can’t get from Twitter, as all of my Google+ contacts have come from there! However, I do see the potential of circles to create discussion spaces for groups of people i.e. committees. This will, however, depend on take-up, and a lot of the people on my Twitter feed and Google+ stream appear to be unsure about the usefulness of Google+ too.

Bringing them all together
I think that the online networks that I use serve different purposes; Twitter for sharing information and having fast-moving, timely discussions, LISNPN for resources and slower discussions, LinkedIn for maintaining a professional presence in one place, Facebook for staying connected with friends. I am a huge advocate for online networks, and encourage people who I meet, new professionals in particular, to get involved. If anyone is unsure, I suggest that they start with LISNPN, and then branch out from there. I do, however, worry that my enthusiasm for online networks sometimes becomes harassment or nagging!  It’s only because I think they are so valuable, providing access to discussions and opportunities that you might otherwise miss.

Thing 5: reflective practice

I was first introduced to reflective practice during my graduate traineeship at Leeds Met three years ago (they’re recruiting for their next graduate trainee, if anyone’s interested, by the way!). There was a lot of emphasis placed on preparing us for life as a librarian and, as reflection is viewed as increasingly important in the LIS profession, they asked us to keep a reflective diary of our year, from which we could create a final reflective report at the end of the traineeship. Writing reflectively didn’t come naturally to me, but I persevered, and, whilst my earlier entries are fairly descriptive, by the end I was starting to get the hang of it. At that point I still wasn’t totally convinced of the value of reflective writing; it felt like something I had to do as part of my career. During my MA we had to keep an assessed reflective journal of our progress towards becoming an effective manager, as part of our year-long management module. I put this off for as long as possible because the whole management module scared me and I didn’t know where to start, but once I forced myself to get on with it, I began to see some value in reflective writing; with no prior experience or knowledge of management, it helped me to consolidate what we were learning in the module, to relate it to my past experience with my own managers and colleagues, and to consider how I might behave as a manager in the future. And again, I saw an improvement in my ability to reflect, as I wrote my journal entries; the final couple got really good marks and were genuinely reflective.

By the time I started my job, the ability to reflect was coming much more naturally, and I decided to set up a blog in which to reflect on my experiences. Now, I blog about everything I do; every event, conference or course that I attend, things that I do at work, such as teaching, as well as my thoughts on my past experiences i.e. library school and job-hunting. I think that I do it in a reflective way (examples here and here, if anyone feels like commenting!), and writing up my experiences allows me to make sense of it; to really consider the experience, pick out what I learnt, and work out where things went wrong. It’s easy to forget what you’ve done if you don’t record it, and it’s easy to forget the value (or non-value) of something if you only record it descriptively. Now that I am Chartering, reflection on everything I do that relates to my PPDP objectives is hugely important, and the decision to Charter was one of the main reasons that I started blogging about what I’ve been doing.

However, as explained in the CPD23 blog post for Thing 5, reflection isn’t just about getting your Chartership or other qualification; it’s about working out what you’ve learnt and where you go next in your work (and maybe even home?) life. Once I have finished my Chartership portfolio (if that ever happens!) I’ll continue to reflect, because I feel that it makes my work more effective. Checking that the staff whom I line-manage are reflecting on their work and personal development, and encouraging them to do so, is a standing item on the agenda for our monthly one-to-one updates. All in all, I am a big fan of reflection. However, when someone refers to it as “reflective practice”, I start to feel anxious, and panic that I’m not doing it correctly, that I’m not being reflective enough. I think that may be one reason why my Chartership has stalled; I look at the “Building your portfolio” book, or get an email from my mentor reminding me that I must write-up and reflect on what I’ve been doing for my portfolio as soon as possible, and I get really anxious, even though I know, or at least I’m pretty sure, that I am doing this. I think perhaps this might be more of a symptom of me feeling stuck and de-motivated with the whole Chartership process, though (that’s a whole other blog post!).

I think my CPD23 blog posts have been fairly reflective so far. I’m not sure about this one though!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Thing 4: Current awareness - Twitter, RSS and Pushnote

Current awareness is something on which I place a massive emphasis, and for which I always make time. It’s not just about being able to shine in job interviews  or meeting a Chartership criterion; it’s about knowing what is happening in libraries and in the wider HE sector, who’s doing what and what outside factors are having an impact, in order to bring that knowledge into my work (both my paid work and my voluntary roles), research and reflection. I use a few different methods to stay up to date, including Twitter and RSS. Pushnote, however, is not something with which I was familiar prior to CPD23.


I love Twitter, and this is where loads of my current awareness comes from.  When you follow a lot of people in libraries, HE, technology etc., like I do, if anything important or ground-breaking occurs, you’ll see it in your Twitter feed.  I use Twitter to keep up to date in several ways:
  1. Keeping up with LIS news. I’m subscribed to lots of Jiscmail lists, and I read publications like SCONUL Focus, but sometimes you have days when you’re just too busy at work to read your mailing list messages. During my lunchbreak, I can log onto Twitter, and if something interesting has popped up in the LIS world, someone will be tweeting about it, with links to the content and maybe even a blog post or two discussing it. Twitter helps to ensure that I don’t miss the important things.
  2. Keeping up with general news. As above; Twitter reassures me that I won’t miss anything that I need to know about.
  3. Finding blog posts to read. As I explain below, I follow blogs and use Google Reader. However, I find Twitter really useful for pointing me in the direction of good posts. I think that, again, it’s a case of being quick and easy; during my lunchbreak I might not want to spend ages looking through my Reader, but Twitter sends me straight to the most up-to-date and relevant blog content. Of course, this relies on me following a lot of LIS people who also blog and/or read and retweet blogs.
  4. Asking questions. I head to Twitter for anything, from questions about what to do with our current journals display to requests for restaurant recommendations! Twitter contains such a mass of knowledge, and it is by far the fastest way of sourcing ideas. It also allows for discussion with others about an idea that someone has suggested, which mailing lists do not, unless the respondent has sent the reply to the list rather than direct to the asker.
  5. Answering questions! I enjoy sharing my knowledge, experience and ideas with others, and looking at what others are asking also provides an insight into what the current trends and issues are.
  6. Serendipity. Twitter allows you to find things that you weren’t specifically looking for; a link that someone posts, a discussion that two people who you follow are having, something that someone who you don’t follow has posted which has been retweeted by someone who you do follow. I can’t think of any other information source that allows for such serendipitous information discovery.
Twitter does, however, have its limitations. It’s very fast-paced, and it’s easy to miss something. When I was doing my MA, I would have it open in the background as I worked on my coursework or dissertation, and check it periodically. However, now that I work full time, I don’t have time to check Twitter at any time during the working day, other than lunchtime and coffee breaks, which means that I don’t get as much chance to see what’s happening, or to get involved in conversations, as I used to. In this respect, using an RSS feed is much more effective; things don’t disappear, or at least not as quickly! The other significant limitation of Twitter is the character limit of tweets; it becomes less quick and easy if you have a lot to say, as you have to send multiple tweets, or use a tweet-extension tool such as Twitlonger (which then hides much of what you’re saying from immediate view).


As I’ve said, I use Google Reader to keep track of blogs. However, often I will have come across the most recent posts on Twitter already. I find it most useful when I have been away from Twitter for a while I think. I have to admit that my knowledge and use of RSS feeds is very sparse outside of Google Reader. I just find Twitter much more efficient for keeping up!


I’m afraid I’m not convinced of the usefulness of Pushnote. I’m not entirely sure what it does that Twitter/blogs/Delicious/Google Plus/probably other established sites or tools don’t already do. Feel free to try to persuade me otherwise, but having signed up specifically for CPD23, I can’t see myself doing anything further with it, and will be sticking to Twitter I think.

Other tools – mailing lists and publications

As I said earlier, I also use some fairly traditional tools for current awareness, namely Jiscmail lists and publications such as SCONUL Focus. I don’t always have time to browse them in much detail, but do find them useful. Perhaps I should tweet more of what I discover there, for those who don’t look at them.